Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Safety Footwear in Public Works: Protecting Your “Wheels”

Who pays for it?.................Federal OSHA is somewhat clear in that steel toed footwear and prescription eye wear can be exempt items that the employer may not need to pay for.  However, MN OSHA takes a more stringent approach in that they require employers to pay for all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety shoes (Minnesota Statutes 182.655 subd. 10a).  So, if safety or steel toed boots are part of the employee's personal protective equipment, then the employer would need to pay the minimal cost of PPE that is of a type necessary for the job being performed.  If employees want a more expensive PPE, the employer has the option to pay the entire cost or have the employee pay the difference between the minimum type necessary to provide the protection and the option the employee is selecting.    The employee should not have to pay 100% on their own, and if they do, this could be a non-serious citation by an OSHA inspector.

Who needs it?..............OSHA 29CFR 1910.136 addresses foot protection as part of personal protective equipment.  The general requirement is that the employer must ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where such employee's feet are exposed to electrical hazards.  Whether full time, part time or seasonal, public works employees who encounter these types of hazards need protective footwear.  Generally these hazards are found in a large portion of the work public works employees do, so it is important to make sure their feet are well protected.

No “blue suede shoes” allowed………It is also important to note that safety footwear must meet ANSI minimum compression and impact performance standards in ANSI Z41-1991 (American National Standard for Personal Protection-Protective Footwear) or provide equivalent protection.  All ANSI approved footwear has a protective toe and offers impact and compression protection, but that doesn't mean that the type and amount of protection is the same.  Different footwear protects in different ways, so it is important to check the product’s labeling or consult the manufacturer to make sure the footwear will protect the user from the hazards they face.

What we’ve seen…………..One common trend that I see in public works as I travel around the state is that many cities are allowing public works employees to wear inappropriate footwear while on the job.  Often times, I see employees wearing tennis shoes instead of steel toed work boots.  This is not considered a best practice based upon the type of work that public works employees do.  A work boot would certainly offer greater protection of the feet and toes, and typically provides greater traction to help reduce slips and falls.  It’s important to make sure that proper footwear is being worn for the work being done, and a simple footwear policy would take care of this.  So, if you don’t already have a policy in place that addresses proper footwear, I would encourage you to consider developing one.

Do you ever really think about your feet on the job in public works?  Well, each year at least 120,000 workers certainly do.  That’s because each of them suffered an accidental foot injury while on the job.  And what are most of them thinking about?  Chances are it’s the realization that their accident could have been prevented by using common safety sense and wearing the appropriate protective footwear.

Give us a call or drop an email…………..If you have questions related to protective footwear, don’t hesitate to contact the loss control consultant assigned to your city.

By Jackie Torgerson

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Walk in the Park

(c)emt1804.jpgFor many years the annual Safety and Loss Control Workshops have been a harbinger of spring for Minnesota municipalities.  Over the years a wealth of information has been developed for members in the form of risk management memos on a wide range of park and recreation topics.  These memos have been available on the LMC website and from the League's Loss Control Consultants.  Now they are available in one handy guide.  Park and Recreational Loss Control Guide 

Parks and recreational facilities can be one of your city’s most visible assets.  Learn how to protect your parks and prevent injuries among park and recreation employees with LMCIT’s all new and comprehensive Parks & Recreational Loss Control Guide.  The Guide contains an overview of key risk management concepts and specific advice for managing many common programs and events such as snow hills, ice skating or swimming facilities, trails, skateparks, parades, sports leagues, and more. It also contains links to sample policies, checklists, and forms to make your life easier.

by Cheryl Brennan